My mother-in-law gave my son The United States of Strange for a present one year. I think I read it more than him. It’s filled with lots of odd facts. If you love Mental Floss, you’ll love this book. Anyway, here’s some weird history that I pulled from the book.
- During the Civil War, Frank C. Armstrong was the only general officer to fight on both sides, as a captain for the Union army and a brigadier for the Confederacy. Talk about a split personality!
- As of 2011, the 10thS. president, John Tyler, who was born in 1790 still has two living grandchildren. I’m still trying to figure out how that is possible.
- Until 1977, the U.S. nuclear launch code was 00,00,00,00,00,00,00. This makes those people whose computer passwords are “Password” look like geniuses.
- Thomas Edison held 1,093 patents during his lifetime. As a side note, the first copyrighted film in the U.S. was Edison’s assistant sneezing. I wonder if it made as much as The Avengers?
- In 1989, a man bought a painting for $4 at a flea market. When he got it home, he found a piece of parchment wedged into the frame. He pulled it free and opened it to discover that he had what turned out to be an original copy of the Declaration of Independence worth $8 million. My son goes to yard sales and only brings home broken stuff that we wind up throwing out.
- July 1744, British colonists paid the Iroquois Indians $2,400 for land that it turns out the Iroquois had no right to. This led to a war between the colonists and the Native Americans who did own the land. I guess that was payback for the Dutch getting Manhattan for $24.
- When returning from the moon, Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins, and Neil Armstrong had to go through customs. I wonder if they had to fill out forms declaring why they visited the moon and if they had anything to declare.
Anyway, The United States of Strange is a fun book that claims to have “1,001 Frightening, Bizarre, Outrageous Facts” between the covers. I know I’m amazed each time I read a couple pages.